The Lady from Shanghai (1948)

86-87 mins | Film noir | May 1948

Director:

Orson Welles

Writer:

Orson Welles

Producer:

Orson Welles

Cinematographer:

Charles "Bud" Lawton

Editor:

Viola Lawrence

Production Designers:

Stephen Goosson, Sturges Carne

Production Company:

Columbia Pictures Corp.
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HISTORY

Working titles for this film were Black Irish , If I Die Before I Wake and Take This Woman . Orson Welles's onscreen credit reads: "Screenplay and Production Orson Welles." Many of the actors appearing in the film were performers in Welles's Mercury Theatre stage and radio shows. The picture marked the screen debut of Carl Frank, a veteran radio star and member of the Mercury Theatre. A Dec 1946 HR news item indicates that cinematographer Rudolph Maté temporarily took over for Charles Lawton, Jr. when Lawton fell ill. According to a Jun 1946 HR news item, co-producer William Castle was under consideration as Welles's co-director. An Oct 1946 HR news item notes that assistant cameraman Donald Ray Cory died of heart failure while filming on location in Acapulco, Mexico. Information contained in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library indicates that the third draft of the screenplay was deemed "unacceptable" by the PCA because of a scene in which the character played by Hayworth commited suicide to escape justice. Some contemporary reviews, including the Var review, which called the script "wordy and full of holes," criticized the film's confusing story.
       According to modern sources, Ida Lupino was originally set for the role played by Hayworth. Modern sources also note the following about the production: Welles wrote the first draft of the screenplay adaptation in a seventy-two hour period while he was staying at a hotel on Catalina Island. In his contract with Columbia, Welles was to be paid $2,000 for a week for his acting, an additional $100,000 after the studio ... More Less

Working titles for this film were Black Irish , If I Die Before I Wake and Take This Woman . Orson Welles's onscreen credit reads: "Screenplay and Production Orson Welles." Many of the actors appearing in the film were performers in Welles's Mercury Theatre stage and radio shows. The picture marked the screen debut of Carl Frank, a veteran radio star and member of the Mercury Theatre. A Dec 1946 HR news item indicates that cinematographer Rudolph Maté temporarily took over for Charles Lawton, Jr. when Lawton fell ill. According to a Jun 1946 HR news item, co-producer William Castle was under consideration as Welles's co-director. An Oct 1946 HR news item notes that assistant cameraman Donald Ray Cory died of heart failure while filming on location in Acapulco, Mexico. Information contained in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library indicates that the third draft of the screenplay was deemed "unacceptable" by the PCA because of a scene in which the character played by Hayworth commited suicide to escape justice. Some contemporary reviews, including the Var review, which called the script "wordy and full of holes," criticized the film's confusing story.
       According to modern sources, Ida Lupino was originally set for the role played by Hayworth. Modern sources also note the following about the production: Welles wrote the first draft of the screenplay adaptation in a seventy-two hour period while he was staying at a hotel on Catalina Island. In his contract with Columbia, Welles was to be paid $2,000 for a week for his acting, an additional $100,000 after the studio recouped its costs, and fifteen percent of all the profits generated by the film. Although the novel on which the film is based was set in New York City and Long Island, Welles moved the main setting of the story to Mexico and Sausalito, CA. Hayworth and Welles, who married in 1943, were estranged at the time Welles cast her in the film. Hayworth reportedly accepted the assignment in the hope that her daughter Rebecca would benefit from Welles's profits from the film after their divorce. The divorce was finalized a short time after the filming of the picture was completed.
       An interview with Welles quoted in a modern source indicated that the script was originally written for actress Barbara Laage. According to a biography of Welles, Welles had limited control over the editing of the film and was displeased with many aspects of the final picture. Welles criticized much of the completed film, which, he claimed, was significantly altered by Columbia production head Harry Cohn and editor Viola Lawrence. Chief among Welles's criticisms were the overpunctuated score, the reduction of approximately twenty percent of the film, and the addition of a less ambiguous ending. The Welles biography also notes that Cohn delayed the release of the picture for nearly a year in an unsuccessful attempt to have it released after The Loves of Carmen , a film in which Hayworth, one of his most valuable stars, had a more flattering role. In addition to Acapulco, some filming took place on location in California at the Columbia Ranch in Burbank, and in San Francisco and Sausalito. The film's hall of mirrors sequence, which has been imitated and parodied in many films, including the 1993 Woody Allen directed film Manhattan Murder Mystery , starring Allen, Diane Keaton, Alan Alda and Angelica Huston. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Jun 48
p. 200-01, 213.
Box Office
17 Apr 1948.
---
Daily Variety
9 Apr 48
p. 3, 10
Film Daily
9 Apr 48
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jun 46
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Sep 46
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Oct 46
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Oct 46
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Oct 46
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Dec 46
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Apr 48
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jun 48
p. 6, 10
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
21 Feb 48
p. 4069.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
17 Apr 48
p. 4125.
New York Times
10 Jun 48
p. 28.
Variety
14 Apr 48
p. 8.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Fill-in dir of photog
Cam op
Asst cam
Grip
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
Mus score
Mus dir
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr supv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel If I Die Before I Wake by Raymond Sherwood King (New York, 1938).
SONGS
"Please Don't Kiss Me," music and lyrics by Allan Roberts and Doris Fisher.
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Take This Woman
Black Irish
If I Die Before I Wake
Release Date:
May 1948
Production Date:
2 October 1946--27 February 1947
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
14 April 1948
Copyright Number:
LP1559
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
86-87
Length(in feet):
7,864
Country:
United States
PCA No:
12111
SYNOPSIS

In New York City's Central Park, Michael O'Hara, an Irish merchant sailor, rescues the beautiful Elsa Bannister from a group of thieves who are attempting to rob her. After fighting off the three attackers, Michael escorts Elsa to safety, and later learns that she is married to the renowned lawyer Arthur Bannister. The following day, Arthur, a cripple, offers Michael a job working on his yacht, and Michael reluctantly accepts the offer. The yacht sets sail from New York to San Francisco with Michael, the Bannisters, Arthur's partner, George Grisby, and a small crew. During the trip, Michael falls in love with Elsa, and learns that she agreed to marry Arthur only after he threatened to expose her shady past in Shanghai. Soon after the yacht reaches the Mexican coast, Michael and Elsa realize that they are being watched by the yacht's steward, Sidney Broome, who is actually a detective hired by Arthur to keep watch over Elsa. In Acapulco, Grisby tells Michael that he intended to disappear on the voyage so that his wife could collect his life insurance money. After explaining his plans to stage his own murder, Grisby offers Michael $5,000 to confess to killing him. Grisby assures Michael that he cannot be convicted of murder because there will be no corpse to prove his guilt. The voyage ends in San Francisco, where Michael, hoping that the $5,000 will buy Elsa's freedom from Arthur, agrees to sign a confession admitting that he murdered Grisby. Later, Grisby shoots Broome when Broome accuses him of planning the staged murder as part of a ploy to kill Arthur. The wounded Broome then finds Elsa ... +


In New York City's Central Park, Michael O'Hara, an Irish merchant sailor, rescues the beautiful Elsa Bannister from a group of thieves who are attempting to rob her. After fighting off the three attackers, Michael escorts Elsa to safety, and later learns that she is married to the renowned lawyer Arthur Bannister. The following day, Arthur, a cripple, offers Michael a job working on his yacht, and Michael reluctantly accepts the offer. The yacht sets sail from New York to San Francisco with Michael, the Bannisters, Arthur's partner, George Grisby, and a small crew. During the trip, Michael falls in love with Elsa, and learns that she agreed to marry Arthur only after he threatened to expose her shady past in Shanghai. Soon after the yacht reaches the Mexican coast, Michael and Elsa realize that they are being watched by the yacht's steward, Sidney Broome, who is actually a detective hired by Arthur to keep watch over Elsa. In Acapulco, Grisby tells Michael that he intended to disappear on the voyage so that his wife could collect his life insurance money. After explaining his plans to stage his own murder, Grisby offers Michael $5,000 to confess to killing him. Grisby assures Michael that he cannot be convicted of murder because there will be no corpse to prove his guilt. The voyage ends in San Francisco, where Michael, hoping that the $5,000 will buy Elsa's freedom from Arthur, agrees to sign a confession admitting that he murdered Grisby. Later, Grisby shoots Broome when Broome accuses him of planning the staged murder as part of a ploy to kill Arthur. The wounded Broome then finds Elsa and tells her that Arthur is about to be killed by Grisby. Meanwhile, Grisby and Michael enact the murder plot at the waterfront, where Michael fires three shots into the air, and Grisby speeds away on a motor boat. A short time later, Broome reports to Michael with his dying breath that Grisby arranged the phony murder to frame him for the murder of Arthur. Believing that Arthur has been murdered, Michael is surprised when he learns that Grisby has been killed. When the police find Michael's signed confession, they arrest him and charge him with the murder of Grisby. While visiting Michael in his jail cell, Elsa tells him that Arthur has volunteered to defend him. Though he distrusts Arthur, Michael is left with no alternative but to accept his help. Arthur deliberately presents a losing defense case, and, during the jury's deliberation, tells Michael that he hopes to send him to the gas chamber. When Arthur admits to Michael that it was he who killed Grisby, Michael creates a diversion in the courtroom by grabbing a handful of sedative pills and swallowing them. After punching Arthur and two bailiffs, Michael escapes and takes refuge in a Chinatown theater. Elsa finds him there, arranges to have her Chinese servant hide him, and promises to help him by looking for the gun that was used in the murder. While discussing the arrangement with Elsa, Michael accidentally discovers the missing gun hidden in Elsa's purse, and immediately realizes that Elsa is the one who murdered Grisby. When the pills he took begin to take effect, Michael loses consciousness and is taken by Elsa's servant to an amusement park fun house. Michael regains consciousness in a hall of mirrors, where he witnesses a gun duel between Elsa and Arthur. The Bannisters mortally wound each other in the duel, during which Arthur reveals that he sent a letter to the district attorney establishing Elsa's guilt. After Elsa and Arthur die, Michael leaves the amusement park, certain that the letter will exonerate him. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.